The Benefits of Transit Oriented Development


Over the past few weeks, I have posted various insights on the connections between transportation and development (specifically, housing and land-use planning). The link is inextricable, and any comprehensive transit plan will need to address the dynamic connection between the two. Just as development guides transportation planning, transit choices have a significant impact on where and how development occurs. Under the umbrella of smarter planning, transit-oriented development (or Transit Oriented Design, TOD) is often cited as an efficient means of reducing traffic congestion and increasing accessibility and mobility. Such design creates walkable communities around public transportation, specifically high-speed rail. The benefits of TOD are numerous:

  1. Overall better public health, due to an increase in pedestrian activity and a decrease in individual stress levels (multiple studies on commuter stress have suggested that individuals who commute by car, especially over long distances, are more likely to experience higher stress levels than those who use public transit)
  2. Increased savings for governments and taxpayers, due to decrease in car transit costs (the American Society of Civil Engineers reports that congestion alone costs the U.S. $78.2 billion)
  3. Economic prosperity for local businesses, due to increase in foot traffic (which often creates an influx of consumers)

But how effective is transit oriented development in producing the desired effects? BeyondDC, a smart growth and transportation blog that (as you might have guessed) focuses on the greater Washington, DC region, posted an interesting report about some research findings coming out of the Arlington County Department of Transportation (Virginia). Arlington County has been dedicated to transit oriented development for over two decades, and it seems that this dedication will not stop anytime soon. The latest traffic reports for the county state that congestion levels have stayed the same since 1975, and – this is shocking – that “1,000 units of urban-format TOD housing generates fewer auto trips per day than a single suburban-format McDonalds or 7-11.”

The research results have not been posted yet, but I will attempt to track them down once they become available. In the meantime, post your thoughts on this data, and make sure to subscribe to our RSS feed.

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About Beata Bujalska

Beata Bujalska is the former Campaign Coordinator for Renew Lehigh Valley. She currently lives in Panama, a place that fascinates her due to (among other reasons) its recent development boom.

Posted on August 24, 2009, in Health, Housing, Municipal Government, Neighborhoods, Public Infrastructure, Trends, Urbanism and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

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